Earlier this week a friend snapped a photo of a recipe and texted it to me with an order: Make this immediately.
The recipe came from Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year and called for roasting thinly sliced eggplant dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The roasted eggplant would then be layered onto a buttered baguette with a handful of arugula. That was it. It sounded too good to be true. Dare I make it? I’d read the sandwich police were out.
I took the risk, and I’m so glad I did, because I need unfussy eggplant recipes in my repertoire and this one is just that, proving that eggplant isn’t as demanding as I think. It slices beautifully with a knife into uniform-enough pieces—no need to break out the mandoline here. It need not be salted. And, as it turns out, when brushed with a simple dressing and roasted, it tastes sweet, each slice as irresistible as the next without a trace of bitterness.
Eggplant pre- and post-roast.Photo by Alexandra Stafford
Like many other near three-ingredient assemblies, the charm of this one is its simplicity, its success relying on a synergy of flavors and textures: the bitter, undressed arugula against the earthy, yielding eggplant, a smear of sweet butter offering a touch of richness. The absence of any fancy sauce (a flavored aioli, an herby pesto) or condiment (a spicy pickle, a textured relish), moreover, allows the eggplant to shine.
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Ruth says it best: “Eggplant is usually the chameleon of the vegetable kingdom, so accommodating that if often disappears. Here it finally has a chance to star.”
Alexandra Stafford is a writer, photographer, and occasional stationery designer based in upstate New York, where she is writing a cookbook. You can read more of her work on her blog.
What's your unfussiest technique for eggplant? Tell us in the comments.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).